Some techniques for ensuring rifle accuracy

Posted: Thursday, September 07, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- When you go to the rifle range to sight in your weapon before a moose, caribou or sheep hunt, remember what Master Guide Pete Buist says.

''Most Alaska big game killed over 300 yards is killed in bars,'' said Buist, who has been guiding in Alaska for more than 20 years.

Any shot 200 yards or over is considered an excellent shot by most hunters. A shot at 300 yards or more is considered chancy.

''The bullet drops really rapidly after 200 yards, no matter what caliber you're shooting,'' hunter and biologist Pat Valkenburg said.

The general rule of thumb used by most hunters when sighting in a rifle is to sight in 2- to 3-inches high at 100 yards.

''If you get something that's forming a nice group that's 2 to 3 inches high at 100 yards, you're going to be accurate on large animals out to 300 yards,'' Buist told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

A ''nice group'' is about the size of a quarter, said Randy Pitney, the rifle coach at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a proficient hunter.

Big-game guide and ex-U.S. Army sharpshooter Virgil Umphenour advised hunters to sight their guns in at various distances, from as short as 25 yards and as long as 500 yards.

''The best thing to do, if a guy has the time to do it, is shoot your rifle at all the ranges,'' Umphenour said. ''I'd start out at 25 yards and shoot it at 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500.''

Umphenour also said it's a good idea to use life-sized targets, whether you buy them or make your own, to get an idea what a sheep or caribou looks like at different distances.

''Then you'll know how big your target looks in your scope at various ranges,'' he said. ''It helps you estimate range and it helps you figure out what your aiming point should be.''

Sighting in a rifle before a hunt is a hunter's responsibility and the job should not be taken lightly, Buist said.

''Anybody that goes afield to hunt big game owes it to the animals they're hunting to be able to accurately judge distance, know the anatomy of the animal and be able to make a killing shot,'' he said.

If you buy a gun with a wooden stock, Umphenour and Buist recommend replacing it with a fiberglass stock immediately.

Wooden stocks swell with moisture and put pressure on the barrel, knocking off the gun's zero.

''Wood stocks swell and shrink and knock your accuracy all to hell,'' Buist said.

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